A lively evening at Willesden Library last night. It was perfect weather, just one of those nights that everyone enjoys.
Once, some years back, I stayed in Willesden for a month or so and did not like it much because I spent too much time on the Jubilee line. Now I like Willesden because I mostly see it at sunset, and it does great sunset. (Oops, maybe I should have lived in West London after all.) Arriving a little early I ambled into a new deli-coffee place for a cup of tea. Who was lurking there but Vanessa Gebbie, winner of the prize in its first year, also on her way to the library for the event.
At the library, readings were performed by the talented actors from the Liar’s League, thus saving the seven shortlisted authors present the trauma of reading their work before they learned who had won the prize. Brains and energy behind the prize, local writer Stephen Moran, has for five years now organised the prize and the associated anthology, and selected the shortlist. You can see him in the picture below calling the winner to the stage.
The winning story was selected and announced by acclaimed author Maggie Gee. Gee said that the task of narrowing down the list had been difficult, and that although a different judge might have chosen a different method, she did so on the basis of the stories’ endings, since its ending is what distinguishes a short story from a novel. And this led her to award the prize to ‘Out of Season’ by Mary O’Shea.
O’Shea, from Cork, was thrilled with her prize of a Willesden mug, and with being picked as overall winner of what is clearly a strong collection. Her story of a couple taking their last holiday together and remembering the accidents that brought them together decades earlier, is well worth reading. It is fluid and believeable, capturing a range of competing emotions while deftly avoiding being maudlin. The names of other winners and runners-up can be found on the ‘Willesden Herald competition‘ page.
If you missed this night but feel inspired to go to another live reading soon, the Liars League event on 12 April celebrates their fourth anniversary and will be held in Cavendish Square, London W1.
You can buy the anthology from Amazon – Willesden Herald New Short Stories 5.